Posted on: September 2, 2011 4:41 pm
By Evan Brunell
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Gone streaking: Arizona will chase its 10th straight victory Friday night as a series with the Giants open. San Francisco is flagging, six games behind the DBacks and with a tall task at hand. Matt Cain will get the ball with a 2.87 ERA and the task of opening the weekend series with a statement, while Joe Saunders will be the man to go for 'Zona, who has a 3.69 ERA. San Francisco cut ties with Aaron Rowand and Miguel Tejada on Thursday and are recalling a smattering of players to help for the stretch drive, which will be moot if they can't come away with a series win or sweep. To win though, the Giants have to start scoring some runs. Diamondbacks vs. Giants, 10:15 p.m. ET
Verlander time: Justin Verlander is appointment-viewing these days. The Tigers ace will take his blazing fastball up against the White Sox, who are 5 1/2 games behind division-leading Detroit. Friday is the first of seven remaining meetings both teams have, and Chicago needs to do well to stay in the race. "I feel like we have to win the series to be really optimistic for the rest of the year," Brent Lillibridge told the Associated Press. "We're ready. We've been playing good baseball." So has Verlander, whose won his last nine games and will tote a 20-5 record and slim 2.39 ERA up against John Danks, a lefty with a 3.63 ERA on the year. White Sox vs. Tigers, 7:05 p.m. ET
Battle for second: The streaking Cardinals are winners of their last four, which has pulled them to 7 1/2 games, which is still a tough task. The Reds, meanwhile, are on a skid having lost four straight to fall to 13 1/2 back. Cincinnati has a pretty good pitcher toeing the mound Friday night in an attempt to finish the year strong and in second place with MLB ERA leader Johnny Cueto going up against Chris Carpenter. Cueto, owner of a 2.05 mark, is coming off a game where he recorded a career-high 11 whiffs, but Carpenter is on a roll himself and has defeated the Reds the last two times out. Reds vs. Cardinals, 8:15 p.m. ET
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Posted on: September 1, 2011 5:33 pm
By C. Trent Rosecrans
If I were a conspiracy type of guy (and I'm most certainly not), maybe I'd suggest Bud Selig rigged this whole thing to get people on board for expanding the playoffs. I don't believe that, or even believe Selig has dreamt about that, much less thought about it -- but the lack of a pennant chases this September may make adding another playoff team to the mix more desirable.
As September began, only two division leaders had a competitor within five games of them for the lead, and one of those -- the American League East -- has both teams pretty much as shoe-ins for the playoffs. Both wild card leaders are up by at least 7 1/2 games over their nearest competition. In short, it may be a boring September.
So, with that buildup, let's look at the race for the eight playoff spots as we enter the last month of the season:
AL East: While the revamped Rays gave it a nice run, Tampa starts the month nine games behind the Rd Sox and virtually out of the race, so we're down to the usual suspects -- the Yankees and Red Sox. The rivals finish their series on Wednesday with Boston leading New York by 1 1/2 games. A difference could be the two teams' schedules -- Boston doesn't leave the Eastern Time zone the rest of the season, while the Yankees not only have a swing out West, they also have 26 games in the last 27 days. Boston does as well, but a doubleheader on Sept. 19 against Baltimore gives them two off days in the game's last month. Boston is 35-20 against the five teams remaining on their schedule while the Yankees are 39-31 against the seven teams they have left on their slate. While many may say it doesn't matter which team wins the division, there's something to be said for home field advantage and opening against Detroit over opening at Texas.
AL Central: The Detroit Verlanders lead the division by 5 1/2 games over the Indians and are six games ahead of the White Sox. However, both the White Sox and Indians have six games left against Detroit, so it's hardly over -- but it could be by the middle of the month. Detroit and Justin Verlander welcome the White Sox to Comerica Park on Friday. Detroit follows that series with a trip to Cleveland. A nice run here by the Tigers could go a long way to letting them work their rotation so Verlander can get ready for Game 1 of the ALDS.
AL West: This is where it could get interesting -- Texas led the division by as many as seven games in August, but enter Thursday's game just 3 1/2 games ahead of Los Angeles, which has won eight of its last 12 games and returns for Seattle for a nine-game home stand on Friday. The Angels are a .500 team on the road and 38-28 at home entering Thursday's game in Seattle. The two teams have just three games remaining against each other, but they come the last series of the season, Sept. 26-28 in Anaheim.
AL Wild Card: Red Sox or Yankees. Yankees or Red Sox.
NL East: Much like the American League East, the top two teams can smell the postseason. Philadelphia is rolling and nobody wants to face Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels in the postseason. The Phillies improved to 87-56 with a win over Cincinnati on Thursday.
NL Central: The Cardinals have looked spunky by taking the first two games of the series in Milwaukee headed into Thursday afternoon's game, but it still leads by 8 1/2 games. The Cardinals welcome the Brewers at Busch Stadium next week after a weekend series with the Reds. The Brewers are still in control, so St. Louis needs to win the rest of its series remaining (including a trip to Philadelphia for four and three games against Atlanta) to make the Brewers sweat. St. Louis does follow that trip to Philly with series against the Mets, Cubs and Astros to finish the season, so the schedule helps them once they get back from Philadelphia.
NL West: Last year the Giants entered September four games back in the National League, this year it's six. But there's a lot different feeling than there was a year ago when people were wondering if the Padres could hold on to first (they couldn't), while this year the division-leading Diamondbacks enter the season's final month riding a nine-game winning streak. The two start a three-game series in San Francisco on Friday in what could turn out to be the knockout punch. However, the Giants miss Daniel Hudson, while they also put on the mound their three top starters in Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum and Ryan Vogelsong. The two teams also have another series in the season's last weekend at Chase Field. Arizona plays all its remaining games in either the Pacific or Mountain time zones. The Diamondbacks are 30-23 against the teams remaining on their schedule, with a 4-8 record so far against the Giants. All of San Francisco's remaining games are against NL West teams, which helps because those teams are the Padres, Dodgers and Rockies.
NL Wild Card: The Braves will play, but a more interesting question is who they will play. This isn't exactly about the wild card, but more about which team dodges the Phillies in the first round of the playoffs.For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Tags: AL Central, AL East, AL West, Angels, Brewers, Bud Selig, C. Trent Rosecrans, Cardinals, Cliff LEe, Cole Hamels, Daniel Hudson, Diamondbacks, Giants, Indians, Justin Verlander, Matt Cain, NL Central, NL East, NL West, Phillies, Rangers, Rays, Red Sox, Roy Halladay, Ryan Vogelsong, September Storylines, Tigers, Tim Lincecum, White Sox, Yankees
Posted on: September 1, 2011 2:53 pm
Edited on: September 1, 2011 11:36 pm
By C. Trent Rosecrans
Every year August is the month when some teams pull away in the playoff race and others fade -- it's one of the biggest months of the season, even if it doesn't have the drama of September or the stakes of October. By the time August is done, there are few surprises -- what you see is what you get.
While one surprise team (Pittsburgh) fizzled, another (Arizona) sizzled. The Diamondbacks started August two games back in the NL West and now lead the defending champion Giants by six games. The D-Backs finished August on a nine-game winning streak -- they also had a seven-game winning streak earlier in the month. Kirk Gibson's club did have a six-game losing streak in the past 31 days, but the Giants have struggled all month, allowing some breathing distance for the D-Backs.
This August has seen Atlanta's Dan Uggla go from a disappointment to, well, Dan Uggla. His hitting streak ended at 33 games, but his average increased from .206 at the end of July to .232 at the end of August. In all, he hit in 22 of 26 August games and went .340/.405/.670 with 10 homers as the Braves solidified their hold on the NL wild-card spot.
But it's Detroit's Alex Avila who gains the nod as our Batter of the Month.
Meanwhile nine different pitchers picked up five wins. Some of the names (Cliff Lee, Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Justin Verlander) aren't surprising, while some (Ivan Nova, Ian Kennedy, Ricky Romero) were young guns making their mark. Another was a pitcher (Hiroki Kuroda) finally getting run support and the last (Bruce Chen) was a total surprise.
But Lee was The Man. He started five games. He won five games. He only allowed two earned runs, which both came in the same game. He averaged nearly eight innings per start, saving the Phillies bullpen some extra work. He struck out nearly a batter per inning while allowing less than one baserunner per inning, meaning he kept the pressure off his defense. Basically, Lee did it all for the Phillies in August, and that's why he snags this Pitcher award for a second consecutive month.
Danny Knobler and Scott Miller are Senior MLB Writers; Evan Brunell, C. Trent Rosecrans and Matt Snyder are Eye on Baseball Bloggers; Al Melchior is a Fantasy Data Analyst; and Scott White is a Fantasy Writer.For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Tags: AL Central, AL East, Al Melchior, AL West, Alex Avila, Batter of the Month, Blue Jays, Braves, Brewers, Bruce Chen, C. Trent Rosecrans, Clayton Kershaw, Clayton Kershaw, Cliff Lee, Cliff Lee, Curtis Granders, Dan Uggla, Danny Knobler, David Ortiz, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Evan Brunell, Evan Longoria, Hiroki Kuroda, Ian Kennedy, Ivan Nova, Joey Votto, Justin Verlander, Matt Snyder, NL Central, NL East, NL West, Phillies, Pirates, Pitcher of the Month, Players of the Month, Rays, Reds, Ricky Romero, Royals, Scott Miller, Scott White, Tigers, Tigers, Yankees, Zack Greinke
Posted on: September 1, 2011 9:42 am
By C. Trent Rosecrans
Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke went to Wednesday afternoon's Dodgers-Padres game and talked to all six fans in section 314. Six. The announced crowd was 27,767 -- but there were actually fewer than 8,000, Plaschke estimated and may have been the smallest crowd in Dodger Stadium history.
Every time I've been to Dodger Stadium it's been full and rocking -- this tells you as much as you need to know about how LA fans feel about Frank McCourt.
On the market: But the McCourts did sell one of their two homes near the Playboy Mansion, so there's that. It was the smaller of the two houses in Holmby Hills going for "just" $6.14 million. [Los Angeles Times]
No sympathy: White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire is one of his closest friends in the game, but he's not exactly feeling sorry for him -- "No, because I've seen him celebrating a lot with a lot of champagne over his body when I've watch him [over the years]," he told reporters (MLB.com). "Get them next year, Gardy."
Jays scouting Darvish: Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos was in Japan on Wednesday scouting right-hander Yu Darvish. The Rangers and Yankees have also scouted him in person, while the Nationals, Orioles, Red Sox and Rays also have reportedly been interested in Darvish. [Toronto Sun]
Theo happy in Boston: Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein made his first remarks about his name being thrown around in talks about the open Cubs job -- he said he's "really happy to be with the Red Sox." He didn't elaborate much or deny any interest in the Cubs job, but why should he? Leverage is a good thing and there's no reason for Epstein to give that up. [WEEI.com]
Beane leading Cubs' wish list: Cubs owner Tom Ricketts was in San Francisco on Wednesday, while A's general manager Billy Beane was at home in the Bay Area and his team was in Cleveland -- coincidence? [Chicago Sun-Times]
Rooftops expected: For the first time in a decade, all the Wrigley rooftops around the Cubs' home park have been inspected by city health officials. [Chicago Tribune]
Measuring power: An interesting article on FanGraphs.com asking the best way to measure power -- because what exactly are we talking about when we talk about power? It's more than just homers, but shouldn't homers count more? Anyway, the result is a stat called wXB -- or weighted extra bases. However, the problem with this is that are triples really a measure of power? You're not going to find anyone who says Dexter Fowler has more power than David Ortiz, but you wouldn't be surprised to learn Fowler has more triples than Ortiz.
Cards want to extend Berkman: The Houston Chronicle's Richard Justice told a St. Louis radio station that the Cardinals approached Lance Berkman about a contract extension in July and the 35-year-old "very much wants to stay" in St. Louis. However, the fact he didn't sign an extension implies Berkman will at least test the free agent waters. [NBC Sports]
Phillies doomed: The Phillies are a favorite for the World Series this season, but enjoy it now, Phillies fans. Grantland.com's Rany Jazayerli writes that the team isn't built for the long haul, as the team is saddled with bloated contracts and aging players. A really interesting read.
Movie time for A's: Several A's say they're curious to see Moneyball when it premiers later this month. [Baseball Prospectus]
Bay to center? Could the Mets move Jason Bay to center field in 2012? That's one of the things the team is considering, even though it seems like it would certainly weaken the team's outfield defense. But hey, the guy is owed a ton of money, so he'd have to be put somewhere. The move would also allow Daniel Murphy's bat to get in the lineup in left, with Lucas Duda in right. Of course, Murphy wasn't able to play left in 2009, so I'm not exactly sure why he would be able to now. [New York Daily News]
Pujols teases fan: A good friend of mine can't stand Albert Pujols -- when 60 Minutes did the feature about all his charitable work, my friend wasn't impressed. He once had a to do a story on Pujols, who blew him off. He went back the next day, and Pujols was a jerk to him again. So I'm guessing he'll like this story about Pujols taunting a Brewer fan. [Big League Stew]
Quentin's return uncertain: White Sox outfielder Carlos Quentin is eligible to come off the disabled list on Monday, but he said he's unsure if he'll be ready to play by then. He went on the disabled list for a sprained AC joint in his left shoulder Saturday, but hadn't played since Aug. 20. [Chicago Tribune]
More Garfoose: Not to overload you with Dirk Hayhurst stuff, but some might find this interesting -- the recently released pitcher is auctioning off some of his game-used gear for charity. [DirkHayhurst.com]@eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Tags: AL Central, AL East, AL West, Albert Pujols, Alex Anthopoulos, Billy Beane, Blue Jays, C. Trent Rosecrans, Cardinals, Carlos Quentin, Cubs, Dodgers, Frank McCourt, Jason Bay, Justin Verlander, Koji Uehara, Lance Berkman, Mets, Mike Moustakas, Moneyball, Nationals, NL East, NL West, Orioles, Ozzie Guillen, Pepper, Phillies, Pirates, Rangers, Rays, Red Sox, Ron Gardenhire, Royals, Stephen Strasburg, Theo Epstein, Tigers, Twins, White Sox, Yankees, Yu Darvish
Posted on: August 31, 2011 10:00 am
By C. Trent Rosecrans
Justin Morneau said the concussion symptoms that will keep him out until at least Friday are "nothing like" what he went through last year, and I'm sure that's true.
But the fact that Morenau began experiencing those symptoms (a headache and fogginess) on Monday and still had the remnants of the symptoms on Tuesday are scary. There's so little we know about concussions, there's little understanding of how our brains react to being move inside its casing and how long it can affect a human.
Morneau has had plenty of other problems this season, but until this week concussions hadn't been part of his problem -- or at least that we know. That's the thing with concussions, there's so much we don't know and we may never know. Science is a wonderful thing, but it takes time.
What is impressive is how the Twins have handled this -- they didn't rush Morneau back last season when they could have used him and they're taking all precautions this season. I hope this doesn't last the rest of Morneau's career, but I think it'd hardly be a surprise if it did.
Game-changer: Technology isn't just great for fans -- the players are using technology in many ways to improve their games. ESPN.com's Jayson Stark takes an in-depth look at the way baseball is using technology, from iPads to using stats to predict pitching patterns. It's well worth the read.
Rehab updates: Grady Sizemore will start his rehab assignment on Wednesday [MLB.com], while Boston's Kevin Youkilis and J.D. Drew started their rehab assignments on Tuesday -- Drew went 3 for 3 and Youkilis went 1 for 4 with a walk and reached on an error. [Dan Hoard]
Price of success: Remember Pirate Fever earlier this summer? Well, Pittsburgh fans are going to pay for it as the team is raising its prices for 2012. That said, the increase is modest from an average of $15.30 to $16.11 per ticket. The Pirates had the lowest average ticket price in baseball (in one of the best settings) for 2011 and will still be close, if not at, the bottom next season. The Pirates hadn't raised prices in a decade. The Pirates said most tickets would stay the same, decrease or increase by $3 or less. The dugout box seats will be raised by $5 -- but only $2 more than they were in 2002. [Pittsburgh Tribube-Review]
Favorite things: The Tigers wives put together auction gift baskets filled with players' favorite things every year, and you can learn a lot about some of baseball's best -- like Justin Verlander likes crappy food and crappy movies, Ryan Raburn loves killin' stuff, why Daniel Schlereth smells funny and that Phil Coke uses "liquid titanium massage lotion." [H/T MLive.com]
Wakefield pushed back: Tim Wakefield's seemingly never-ending search for his 200th win will be delayed a bit, as Red Sox manager Terry Francona told the knuckleballer that he's skipping his turn in the rotation for a turn. Andrew Miller will start Friday against Texas instead of Wakefield. Wakefield is 0-3 with a 4.97 ERA in seven starts since his winning No. 199. [Boston Globe]
Call ups: The clubhouse at Great American Ball Park could get pretty crowded. Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said "quite a few" players will get called up when the rosters expand. The most heralded is catcher Devin Mesoraco, who Evan wrote about Tuesday. [Cincinnati Enquirer]
In-flight entertainment: You may be able to watch baseball games live on your phone on a flight. [Los Angeles Times]
Father-son show: Former Met Howard Johnson, 50, will play alongside his son, Glen, for the independent Rockland Boulders of the Can-Am League on Sunday and Monday. [New York Daily News]@eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Tags: AL Central, AL East, Andrew Miller, C. Trent Rosecrans, Curtis Granderson, Daniel Schlereth, Devin Mesoraco, Grady Sizemore, Howard Johnson, Indians, J.D. Drew, Javier Vazquez, Justin Morneau, Justin Verlander, Kevin Youkilis, Marlins, My Morning Jacket, NL Central, NL East, Pepper, Phil Coke, Pirates, Red Sox, Reds, Ryan Raburn, Tigers, Tim Wakefield, Twins, Yankees
Posted on: August 28, 2011 2:15 am
By C. Trent Rosecrans
Justin Verlander's most impressive stat on Sunday was his 20th victory, a mark no other pitcher has reached this season and just three pitchers reached a season ago.
The Tigers' right-hander now has his first 20-win season in his career, after finishing with 19 in 2009, tied for the most in baseball. As Danny Knobler pointed out, he's the first to reach the 20-win barrier before August since Curt Schilling did it in 2002. Schilling finished that season with 23 wins -- one behind teammate Randy Johnson for the most in baseball that year.
How wins will Verlander have when the 2011 season is done?
At this point -- when he's won 16 of his last 18 starts and eight straight -- it seems like he'll win either 25 or 26 games, depending on how many more starts he makes. The Tigers have 30 more games and two days off in the regular season, so they have the option of giving him either five or six more starts in the season.
Verlander will get an extra day of rest this week, pitching Friday against the White Sox instead of in five days in a makeup game against the Royals on Thursday. He will then start at Cleveland in the day game on Sept. 7. After that, the Tigers have options because of their first off day of the month, Sept. 8.
If the Tigers go with pitching Verlander every five days from there, he would make six starts in the last month, his final start in the next-to-last day of the season, Sept. 27 against the Indians. But that option would mean Verlander wouldn't be ready to pitch in the playoffs until Game 3 of the ALDS on Oct. 3 with an extra day's rest because of the off day on Oct. 2. The team could move him up to pitch on short rest in Game 2 on Oct. 1, but it's not something he's ever done.
What makes more sense is keeping the rotation intact through the first off day, pitching Verlander on Sept. 13 at the White Sox and Sept. 18 at Oakland, before the team's second off day on Sept. 19. From there, they would be able to take stock of the AL Central race and whether they would want Verlander to make one more start or two more starts. After Verlander's victory and the Indians' victory over the Royals and Chicago's win in Seattle, the Tigers led the Indians by 6 1/2 games and the White Sox by 7.
If on the 19th the Tigers think the race will be close, they can pitch Verlander on five days rest and get him a start Sept. 23 against the Orioles and then the last day of the season, on Sept. 28 against Cleveland. If the team does go that route, they will have until the last day to decide if Verlander is needed. If he isn't, he can rest on the last day of the season and let Verlander start Game 1 of the ALDS. If he pitches on Sept. 28, he would be ready for Game 3. That's similar to what the Tigers did in 2009, when they lost three games in a row leading into the last day of the season, needing a Verlander victory to advance to a tie-breaker game with the Twins for the final playoff spot. Verlander got that win, but the Tigers lost the play-in game to Minnesota.
However, if on the 19th it appears the Tigers have it wrapped up, they can keep the rotation intact and have him pitch Sept. 24 against the Orioles and then start Game 1 with an extra day of rest, which is probably the scenario that everyone in Detroit would prefer, even if it means Verlander wins just 25 games instead of 26.
Whatever the choice is, he'll face the same teams -- the White Sox, Indians, A's and Orioles, the difference is if he faces the Indians once or twice. Against those four teams, Verlander is 6-2 with a 3.36 ERA. The White Sox have done most of the damage to him, scoring 13 earned runs in 29 innings over four starts, although Verlander was 3-1 against Chicago. The A's beat Verlander on April 16, getting four runs (three earned) on eight hits in six innings in Oakland. He is 2-0 against the Indians in two starts this season and also defeatd the Orioles in his lone start against Baltimore.For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: August 27, 2011 5:13 pm
By C. Trent Rosecrans
Friday Tigers manager Jim Leyland told a radio station that he didn't think a pitcher should win MVP -- on Saturday he clarified that statement, saying he supported his pitcher, Justin Verlander, winning the MVP but he philosophically didn't believe a pitcher should win the award.
"I will support Justin Verlander for the MVP to the hilt," Leyland told reporters (MLive.com). "I want to make that perfectly clear. The question that was asked of me was if I thought a pitcher should be the MVP. And my answer to that is no. But under the way the system is, I certainly will support Verlander to the hilt."
In today's black and white world, someone is always going to yell about another person's opinion and how they're stupid and all that. Instead, I'll just disagree. I disagree with Leyland that a pitcher shouldn't be eligible for the MVP, but I don't begrudge him his opinion -- Leyland has more baseball knowledge in one of his discarded cigarette butts than I'll ever have, I just disagree. So too does our own Evan Brunell, who wrote about this earlier this week and made a pretty good case for including a pitcher in MVP voting. Last year I had an MVP vote and had two starting pitchers in my top 10, but neither in the top five.
However, for a pitcher to win the MVP, he'd have to have a truly special season -- and Verlander may just be on that road -- even if my vote (if I had one, which I do not) right now would go to Jose Bautista.For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: August 27, 2011 10:57 am
Edited on: August 27, 2011 11:55 am
By C. Trent Rosecrans
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Going for 20: Of all the things Justin Verlander has done in his career, he's never won 20 games in a season. He can reach that mark today with a victory over the Twins at Target Field. Since the 28-year-old's first full season in 2006, he's won at least 17 games in five of his six seasons, including 19 in 2009. In his lone season without 17 wins, he had 17 losses in 2008. In addition to a big-league leading 19 wins this season, he's also leading the majors in starts (28), innings pitched (209 2/3), strikeouts (212), WHIP (0.878) and hits per 9 innings (6) -- in short, he's pretty good. Tigers at Twins, 4:10 p.m. ET
Boom or bust: Remember last week when the Diamondbacks had lost six straight games? Since breaking that streak on Tuesday, Arizona hasn't lost, winning their next four games. The two streaks haven't really changed their place in the standings. After beating the Phillies on Aug. 16 (the last of a seven-game winning streak), the Diamondbacks led the NL West by 3 1/2 games. They then lost six in a row and now after winning four in a row, Arizona is still 3 games up on the Giants. Arizona starter Joe Saunders has lost his last three decisions and has a 7.00 ERA in his last three starts, but is 1-1 with a 3.00 ERA in two starts against the Padres this season. Aaron Harang starts for the Padres, going for his 13th win of the season. While conventional wisdom has been that Harang has benefitted from his new spacious home at Petco Park, he's 6-0 on the road (although, his ERA is more than a run higher away from Petco, where he's 6-3). Padres at Diamondbacks, 8:10 p.m.
Giants rookie takes the hill: Astros starter Brett Myers will be make the 244th start of his career today against the Giants, while San Francisco's Eric Surkamp will be making his first. The left-handed Surkamp, 24, is 10-4 with a 2.02 ERA for the Double-A Richmond Flying Squirrels. The North Carolina State product doesn't overpower anyone, but has a big, breaking curveball that is used as a strikeout pitch. In his last start, Surkamp allowed just two hits and struck out four in eight shutout innings. With Zack Wheeler traded to New York for Carlos Beltran, Surkamp is the team's top prospect and San Francisco hopes he can stabilize the fifth spot in the rotation, filling in for the injured Jonathan Sanchez, the ineffective Dan Runzler and the injured and ineffective Barry Zito. Astros at Giants, 9:05 p.m.
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